Master Cylinder Engines

Old Engines

Content Tools

PO Box 725 Mead, Washington 99021

One day after looking at old engines at the fair, a friend said that I should make a small working engine. I said, 'That would be fun!'

We looked at a lot of different engines. We even ordered some plans out of the back of a magazine. The plans were way too vague.

Then one day the same friend, Doug, brought over a couple of brake master cylinders and said, 'Maybe you could make an engine out of one of these.'

After looking at them and thinking about it for a while, I thought the master cylinder was a natural. Master cylinders have everything needed, a good cast iron cylinder bore, water reservoir, and mounting flange. I simply had to make the rest of the parts.

My friend Doug (also neighbor) was very interested in learning about operating a metal lathe. He asked if he could build an engine at the same time as me, so he could learn. I thought that was a good idea because he could learn a lot about the lathe work on this type of project without costing a lot of money in material.

Most of the material used on these engines was made from scrap. I work at a pump/jack repair shop, so I have access to a lot of small pieces of shafts and miscellaneous brass bushings. It would be a lot easier to just go and buy a half-inch piece of steel shaft, but I already had the stuff, so why not use it? We did have to purchase some timing gears and some aluminum round stock to make pistons. We used brass to make the rings. It machined a lot easier than cast iron and it seemed to work just as well.

My engine started as a master cylinder from a mid-'60s Chevrolet single reservoir system. Doug's is a '72 Chevrolet pickup dual reservoir system; we just cut off the front reservoir.

This project was fun and challenging. I learned a lot and I know Doug learned a lot, too! Since the time we started this project, we have not only built a couple of good running engines, but we have built a great friendship and a whole new hobby!